Whales play around New Zealand coast   14 Jul 2011

Whale watching is a year-round pastime in New Zealand but come winter, the popular activity takes on a more serious role, and this year a busy migration period is providing valuable data as well as entertainment.

New Zealand is known as the marine mammal capital of the world and with 15,134 kilometres of coastline there are numerous opportunities to spot mammals especially during their winter migration.

Two main species track through New Zealand at this time of the year - humpback and southern right whales.

Cook Strait survey
An official Department of Conservation (DOC) survey in Cook Strait, between the North and South islands, has shown a record number of humpback whales passing through the area this year.

Survey leader Nadine Bott said 62 humpbacks had been spotted by the team of ex-whalers, just three weeks into the survey compared to 47 for the entire survey period last year.

The 2011 survey, which began on 11 June, finished on Saturday (9.07.2011) July.

The annual poll assesses recovery in humpback whale numbers since commercial whaling ended in New Zealand in 1963. In 2005, only 18 humpbacks were recorded, and Bott says this year’s numbers are very encouraging.

Akaroa Heads
Tourism operators like Black Cat Cruises at Aakaroa, in Canterbury, have also reported increased sightings of humpbacks, which pass the company’s Banks Peninsula doorstep on their way north from the Southern Ocean.

The company says humpbacks were seen off the Akaroa heads three times in just one week delighting tourists including a group of 16 North American travel agents.

Banks Peninsula is on the direct route for Southern Ocean humpbacks as they migrate thousands of kilometres between low latitude winter breeding and calving grounds in Antarctica and sub-tropical waters of western and eastern Australia and Fiji.

Relaxed and playful
The humpback whales are well known for their spectacular breaching and beautiful complex songs and many spotted in the Akaroa Harbour have been relaxed and playful, apparently happy to be amongst the local natives - including Hector’s dolphins, the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world.

Nadine Bott said humpbacks seen in Cook Strait also appeared relaxed and playful. The whales had come in closer to shore than normal and were happy to rest and linger - more so than other years.

Clear weather and calm sea conditions had made it easier to spot whales this season and photos provided would be particularly valuable for research.

Southern right whales
The Department of Conservation has put out its annual call for members of the public to photograph and report any sightings of southern right whales, which are normally prevalent at this time of the year, and can be easily spotted because they come close to shore.

Photographs are a less invasive, less expensive way to provide information which helps with identifying whales and monitoring their patterns of movement.

Auckland and Otago universities are investigating how southern right whales move around New Zealand.

DOC says the most useful part of the southern right whale to photograph are the callosities - yellowish, raised rough patches of tissue on the head. Each whale has a unique pattern of callosities that only change very slightly over time.

Numbers down
Laura Boren, DOC’s national mammal co-ordinator says there have been fewer sightings of southern right whales in New Zealand waters this year, which is strange after high numbers during the 2010 migration season.

The reasons could be to do with unseasonal weather and the whales staying off-shore, but further answers could come to light after a New Zealand research team completes a study in the Auckland Islands over winter, says Boren.

The southern right whale migration season runs from May through to October each year. So far there have been sightings off Ruapuke Island and Dog Islands in Southland, and in Whareongaonga, south of Young Nick's Head on the western tip of the North Island East Coast region.

(100% Pure New Zealand)

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share

News

Agreement in principle signed with Ngati Tuwharetoa

6 Mar 2015 News
The Crown has signed an agreement in principle with Ngati Tuwharetoa towards settling their historical Treaty of Waitangi claims,... more

New immunisation videos for older children

6 Mar 2015 News
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman welcomes new online resources on immunisation for older children. “These new immunisation... more

Business

Fliway offering IPO at $1.20 to $1.40 per share

6 Mar 2015 Business News
By Fiona Rotherham March 6 (BusinessDesk) - Fliway Group, the transport and logistics provider behind the first float on the NZX... more

Warehouse eyes costs, better products as it targets growth

6 Mar 2015 Business News
By Tina Morrison March 6 (BusinessDesk) - Warehouse Group is turning its focus to reducing costs and improving its products and... more

Living

Rush Hour dance fitness coming to Unitec

6 Mar 2015 Lifestyle
A new initiative by the Unitec Performing and Screen Arts (PASA) dance programme starts next Monday 9 March and runs until the end... more

Newly Digitised Films on the Big Screen

6 Mar 2015 Lifestyle
For the first time, newly digitised versions of New Zealand features,The Quiet Earth and The End of the Golden Weather, will be ... more

Property

Banks relieved as RBNZ drops '5-plus' test for home loans

6 Mar 2015 Property
Article - BusinessDesk   Banks relieved as RBNZ drops '5-plus' test for home loans By Pattrick Smellie March 6 (BusinessDesk) - ... more

NZ dollar falls after RBNZ eyes property speculation

6 Mar 2015 Property
Article - BusinessDesk   NZ dollar falls after RBNZ looks for ways to curb residential property investment By Tina ... more

Migration

PM plays down claim war criminals are living in NZ

2 Mar 2015 Migration
Prime Minister John Key says he is not aware of any suspected war criminals from the former Yugoslavia in New Zealand. The claim that... more

NZ migration rose to record in 2014

30 Jan 2015 Migration By Tina Morrison
  NZ migration surged to record in 2014, helped by robust economy Jan. 30 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand migration surged to a... more

Travel

Productive discussions on Queenstown’s tourism workforce

6 Mar 2015 Travel & Tourism
Sustainable workforce solutions were at the centre of discussions between Government Ministers and tourism industry representatives... more

Air New Zealand promises cheaper deals

2 Mar 2015 Travel & Tourism
Air New Zealand is promising more discounted fares as it adds hundreds of thousands of extra seats to its network where travel agents... more

Sport

Pyper looks like the bolter at the Golden Shears

6 Mar 2015 Sport
Southland shearer Troy Pyper’s surpassed even his own hopes by rapidly making it into the top of New Zealand shearers in a... more

Irene van Dyk Announced as Netball New Zealand Ambassador

6 Mar 2015 Netball
Legendary former Silver Fern Irene van Dyk has been unveiled today as Netball New Zealand’s (NNZ) official ambassador for the... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell on legal fudging on the GCSB, and Tikrit

6 Mar 2015 Column
Column - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on the legal fudging of the GCSB revelations, Tikrit and Jake Xerxes Fussell As many... more

Gordon Campbell on the Privy Council’s Teina Pora decision

4 Mar 2015 Opinion
Column - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on the Privy Council’s Teina Pora decision and Iron & Wine The quashing of... more

Kiwi Success

Kiwi start-up Glassjar launches payments app in the US

6 Mar 2015 People
Glassjar, the kiwi software start-up whose app provides people an easy way of sharing bills, has launched in the United States. The... more

Bryan Williams receives Distinguished Alumni Award

6 Mar 2015 People
University of Auckland Rugby great Bryan Williams receives Distinguished Alumni Award Pacific leader, lawyer and former All Black... more

Recruitment

Luring talent to job expos a win-win

2 Mar 2015 Recruitment
Bringing employers face-to-face with future workforce creates positive labour market outcomes, writes Mark Gillard, director of the... more

Living wage estimate rises to $19.25/hour

2 Mar 2015 Recruitment
Campaigners for a "living wage" say it now costs $19.25 an hour for a mother, father and two children to "live with dignity" in New... more